Nearly two weeks has elapsed since I took delivery of three new titanium moderators from Lawrence Precision, in that time I have used them and thoroughly abused them and can confidently say that they have surpassed all my expectations.
My interest in titanium mods came from a need to have a lightweight, compact and maintenance free moderator. Compact and maintenance free was covered by a few makes but when combined with lightweight it narrowed the field considerably – titanium or alloy. Alloy mods are fast gaining a following due to their incredible lightness, some are over-barrel designs (reflex) and others are end of barrel designs (muzzle-cans), both are lightweight and slim. The main downsides are the blast baffles, sometimes manufactured from alloy and prone to erosion, and their propensity to heat up extremely quickly and take some time to cool. For the occasional user firing only a few shots these are a serious consideration but for extended use the logical step has to be titanium.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not decrying other brands of moderators, they are all fit for purpose and all provide an acceptable level of noise attenuation and muzzle blast and recoil reduction but I needed something more specific for my own requirements. On average I put somewhere in the region of 100 – 200 rounds through my rifles per week, sometimes much more and until now the only moderators that have stood up to the abuse have been the Northstar and Jet Z compact from ASE and some of the PES offerings although the last PES mods I had came with bushings cut for the Blaser spigot thread and when mounted opened a 1cm group to around 8cm, not ideal, they went back! So, the Northstar and the Jet Z had it, by a mile, the downside was that they were heavy and unbalanced the rifle and being steel would no doubt corrode at some point in the future (even stainless rusts) whereas titanium will not corrode and is far harder than any steel- enter Lawrence precision.
Having looked at titanium mods for some time and shied away because of the cost it became apparent that if I wanted a moderator that would tick all my boxes I had little option but to bite the bullet so to speak and talk to someone who actually knew about them rather than the armchair stalkers that internet forums and gun shops are full of – I wasn’t going to get an accurate opinion from somebody who shoots five deer a year so a visit to Nottingham was in order to see Simon Lawrence, the man behind the mods.
Straight away I could tell that Simon wasn’t talking off the top of his head, he wasn’t selling me a moderator, he isn’t a dealer with shelves full of products trying to make a margin, I went to him to talk about the only product he makes. I instantly recognised the machines he uses, not some oil lathered relic which was state of the art 50 years ago, but a CNC milling machine capable of working to far tighter tolerances than the machines of yesteryear, now I know where the precision in Lawrence precision comes from.
After two hours of discussing the product and its construction and benefits I handed him my first barrel, the .243, he nodded and put it on one side. I handed him the .308 and then the 6.5 and he nodded sagely. Then he went to a drawer and rummaged for a bit and brought back a factory Blaser thread that he had cut from a customers barrel, it looked exactly like mine. I pride myself on looking after my kit, my rifles are my tools, I don’t agree with this utter nonsense about synthetic stocks and stainless barrels “because my kit gets a hard time,” what people like that mean is ” I am just too bone idle to look after my kit and don’t care what it looks like!” My rifles get a hard time alright, harder than most, but I still look after them properly, I rely on them. Simon wasn’t criticising me for the state of the thread on the rifle due to anything I had done but more to how the thread had been cut originally in the factory, it was okay but not brilliant, he went on to show me how he cuts threads and the differences, I was impressed enough to let him loose on my 6.5 which now has a glass like crown with the male and female cuts of the threads on the rifle and mod being perfectly matched ensuring a perfect fit and alignment. I left him with all three barrels, agreeing to pick them up two days later.
Sure enough, 48 hours later they were all ready and I couldn’t get home fast enough to put them through their paces. I loaded some pet rounds for all three and headed to the range. For the first ten minutes or so I just marvelled at how light and balanced the rifle felt compared to how it did before, but what would they shoot like and feel like. The .243 was up first and with my favourite foxing round of a Berger 80 gn match/varmint bullet proceeded to keyhole its usual group, the sound attenuation and recoil reduction was no different to the Northstar the rifle previously wore, but the balance and looks were just brilliant. One nil for the LP titanium. The 6.5 was next, I load this hot, very hot, 2 grains over book max hot to get the true capabilities from the calibre and the mod soaked it up admirably, personally I think it out-performed the northstar although this was the Nexus model, the middle one in the range, longer than the northstar but reflexing further back down the barrel giving it superb handling characteristics, 2 nil. Next was the .308, another Nexus replacing a Jet Z compact this time. The looks and feel of the rifle were completely transformed with the titanium mod, it now balanced perfectly but how did it shoot – badly is the answer! Panic set in, emotions ran riot, a 1 1/2 inch group, £595 for a 1 1/2 inch group, I rang Simon immediately! Instead of the usual gun dealer excuses and despite me offering to hang onto it and try different loads through it he calmly insisted that I send it back to him immediately. The following morning (Wednesday) I packaged the barrel and mod up and sent it off to him. On Thursday morning he rang, the barrel and mod were perfect! Now I was worried, if that was the case how come the grouping was so bad? He countered this immediately by saying that the barrel could do with a good scrub out, back to metal, and he was going to build a new mod as well at which point I mentioned that I thought the Jet Z reduced recoil a little better to which he added that he would fit an extra few baffles for good measure at no extra cost.
On Thursday evening Simon emailed me saying that the new mod was ready and that he was coming down from Nottingham to Gloucestershire to see the range and make sure the mod was doing its job. Friday morning saw us at the range with a batch of match ammunition I keep on hand for checking accuracy – a load that consistently shoots 1/2 inch groups. First three shots, 1 1/2 inch group, a verbal expletive from me! Put another three down says Simon, 1 inch group! Grinning, he says put three more down, keyholed! How stupid did I feel now? In all fairness to Simon, he did say that he had re-touched the thread on the barrel, it did feel a lot smoother, but he had also removed a lot of carbon fouling from the throat of the barrel which can have a huge impact on accuracy. The point was that he had taken back a perfectly good moderator, dismantled it and scrapped it, built a new one with more baffles and driven 130 miles to deliver it and make sure it shot not to mention scrubbing out the barrel. I felt embarrassed and slightly sheepish but Simon was just genuinely pleased that everything was how it should be, talk about going the extra mile. I won’t go into cleaning at this point, that will wait for another day, suffice it to say I have been concentrating on cleaning more thoroughly over the last few weeks and have had some rather surprising results with a dramatic improvement in accuracy but that will wait till next week.
So, titanium moderators, are they worth the extra cost? Without a doubt, yes. Forgetting the extraordinary measures Simon went to, they are stronger, lighter, more compact, better balanced and better engineered than anything else available – even the special forces are moving over to them. But what of the downsides? Only one, the cost is twice that of any other mod on the market, £595 for a handcrafted product which carries an original user lifetime warranty. Two days ago I had a client at the range with a nice Sauer 202 sporting a Reflex T8, the mod of choice for the Forestry commission and many sporting rifle users to boot. After a dozen or so rounds it was clear there was an issue with the rifle unable to shoot a group. On closer inspection I noticed gas streaks down the barrel from under the mod, I removed it and to my horror the last 8 inches or so of the barrel were pitted beyond belief – another rotted out reflex only this time the rifle had suffered. Luckily without the mod the rifle still shot reasonably well but a new moderator is on the cards. A Lawrence Precision may be twice the price of a reflex T8 but it is more than twice the moderator.
Simon will be bringing a selection of moderators to the range for the 12th June open day where anybody will be able to see and feel the difference for themselves, I will also have three rifles all sporting them for a demonstration if required. We hope to see as many people as possible.